September 19, 2016

“Abortion in Good Faith” and “Abortion Care”: These Phrases Are Nonsense

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I usually walk 45 minutes to an hour before dawn. A black sky, splattered endlessly with twinkling stars (sometimes accented by a full moon) allows a person to witness the handiwork of God’s creation up close and personal. It is (for me anyway) a magnificent and humbling sight. Perfection just does not happen. You know God is. The proof is right above you.

I get home and it is 5:40 and still black outside. I clean up, pour some coffee and open the newspaper. This is “my” time. I am seizing the moment. Today, staring at me is a full page, color ad from an organization called “Catholic for Choice”. The site is called, “Abortion in Good Faith”. The site wants you to “take the pledge”.  I breathe in, sip the coffee, and read on. The banner proclaims;

Public Funding for abortion is a Catholic social justice value.

Equal access to comprehensive healthcare, including reproductive health services, is a moral imperative.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The funny thing was, I was not appalled or even angry. Instead, I found myself actually shocked and scared. I was shocked at the seemingly Catholic nature of this ad and because I knew it was not. I was scared because it was so well done. Never doubt for a moment that the devil is the master of deceit and deception. He had prompted some fine work with this ad. It appeared to be, more or less, “Catholic”.

Pope Francis has said, “The right to life is the first among human rights. To abort a child is to kill 
someone who cannot defend himself.”


This tiny baby has a Right to Life
St. John Paul II said, “The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.”

The preceding two quotes are from two Popes, one a canonized saint. They both were chosen to occupy the Chair of Peter and were entrusted with the Keys to the Kingdom. Their words express the teaching of Holy Mother Church, the Bride of Christ. We cannot claim to be Catholics and reject or ignore the teaching of the Church. We cannot be “cafeteria catholics”, picking and choosing what suits us. It is not about us. It is about following Christ and His teachings.

The Right to Life is our most basic and fundamental right as children of God and human beings. The miracles of science have shown us that a child is functioning in the womb at six weeks of development (I hate the word gestation). Usually, at that point, most women are just acknowledging what could be happening inside their womb. That is when testing begins.

Now is when the smooth pitch for “Abortion in Good Faith” kicks in. Here is the pledge:

The harsh restrictions on public funding for abortion mean that lower-income women don’t have access to abortion when they need it. Women who are dependent on Medicaid, employees of the federal and state governments, military members, and millions of others who are dependent on public funding simply don’t get the same kind of care as women with money. That is not Catholic.
Our campaign tells the stories of Catholics across the country who want meaningful, accessible reproductive healthcare choices for everyone, no matter how much money they have, where they live or what they believe.
We believe that everyone deserves access to abortion.
Join us. Sign the Pledge

Pledge Now
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A young man named, John, who describes himself as a student community organizer and a Catholic says, “Denying someone abortion care, or any healthcare, simply because they cannot afford the procedure is an assault on their God-given dignity.” He never mentions that Planned Parenthood receives more than a half-BILLION dollars a year in taxpayer money and is the biggest abortion provider in the country.

“Abortion in Good faith”, “Abortion care”, “and an assault on our God- given dignity” are terms and phrases that do not even make any sense. Whatever is “abortion care”?  Emergency health care to save a life of a woman after a botched abortion would be “abortion care”. The sentence suggesting that denying someone an abortion is an “assault on their God-given dignity” is so far-fetched it rejects simple common sense.

Catholics who follow the tenets of their faith and all those who respect life are under serious attack in today’s secular driven environment. For some inexplicable reason many in today’s world have gone “meistic” (my word).  Self-gratification dominates the landscape. Self-sacrifice and saying no to one’s impulses and desires is mocked. We have heard the anti-Gods sing the song of, “Don’t worry-be happy, God loves you, wants you to enjoy yourself and would never punish you.”

God certainly does love us all and He wants us to enjoy eternity with Him in His home. But to get to His home there are rules to follow and consequences for not doing so. The “Abortion in Good Faith” ad is dangerous because so many Catholics are faith-deprived. They are easy prey to this genteel persuasion. They have lost the fortifications of a faith filled existence.

In today’s politically correct environment talking about our faith and Jesus and His church is not an easy thing to do.  But those of us who do believe and follow the guidance of Christ’s church have to somehow reach outside the doors of the church and grab some of those just looking in.

If all else fails maybe we could just get them to look up at a black, starlit sky. The proof is in the perfection right above them. Going back to basics may be a start.

                                      Copyright ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved


September 13, 2016

There is a Crisis of “Fatherless” Children in America; We Should Turn to St. Joseph for Help

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME 

By Larry Peterson

September 8 was the birthday of our heavenly mom, Mary. On her birthday I also always think of Mother Mary’s husband, St. Joseph.  Without him there would be no birthdays to celebrate, either on September 8 or December 25. When God chose Joseph of Nazareth to be the foster-father of His only Son, He certainly knew what He was doing.

I call St. Joseph the “Shadow Saint”. That is because so little is known about him. He never spoke a word that was recorded. He never wrote anything that was saved on parchment.  It does not matter. This young man, a “righteous Jew” true to the law, was confronted with being engaged to a woman pregnant with someone else’s child. The reality was a terrible thing for him to bear.

But Joseph, who was only about 19, was a man of faith and God was with him. The penalty for his betrothed could have been death by stoning. Joseph would have none of that. His Mary would not be harmed. He loved her. So he took her in and married her. The child she carried would be his.

St. Joseph’s example of selflessness is something that needs to be talked about with admiration, respect and pride. It might be used as a guide for so many who have, in this secular driven world, fathered children and then abandoned them. 

There is a crisis of “fatherless” children in America. Next to the disrespect and disregard for unborn life, this could be the most dangerous threat to our society. “Fatherlessness” is an ongoing tragedy that can find its roots planted when Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973. When the destruction of human life was “legalized” the downward spiral of respect for life followed.


You tube.com
There is a "father factor"  involved in virtually all aspects of American life today. Yes, many homes still have fathers but many children live in homes with absentee fathers and the societal effects are felt all across the spectrum of American life.

Statistics show that in fatherless homes poverty is 4X  higher than average, teen pregnancy increases by a multiple of seven (7), abuse and neglect are much more widespread and drug use is more prevalent. The list goes on and on.

St. Joseph could be used as a shining example for all men to emulate. He was poor, he was chaste and he respected women, especially his teenaged bride.  He was a man of faith and stayed true to the laws of God and man. Foremost in his life was his faith in God. This was his strength. This is what fortified him. This is what is missing in so many lives today.

Joseph of Nazareth is an example of how one should respect the law. We could explain to young people how he had to put his teenaged and pregnant wife on the back of a donkey and then walk over rocky, dusty roads for over 80 miles, a journey that probably took three days. And why did he do this? He did this because he was required to go to Bethlehem for the census. It was the law.

The story of young Joseph, taking his teenaged wife and baby boy, and escaping Bethlehem because King Herod wanted to kill his son, Jesus, would make any young person’s pulse amp up. The poor guy’s child was being hunted by Herod’s soldiers. His wife was recovering from child birth. He had to make it to Egypt. And he did…for his family. This is what a REAL man would do, or at least try to.

Joseph did whatever he had to do to take care of his wife and son. He worked hard to keep a roof over their heads, to feed them, clothe them, and protect them. He did not care about himself. His family came first, no matter what. He would have gladly died for them if necessary. He was a real MAN. His sacrifice and efforts for his wife and son allowed them to survive so that the salvific narrative would be fulfilled. We owe him so much.

His faith, courage, integrity and love of God resonate like the smashing of cymbals and the banging of drums for all of us to listen to. We need to follow his example. We need to celebrate his life. We need to honor his commitment to his responsibilities. We should cherish his devotion to family.

I realize the possibility of teaching about this quiet hero in public schools might be a ‘pipe dream’ but  I would hope Catholic schools would use him as an example for students to look up to and respect as a role model for what a husband and dad should try to be like.

St. Joseph, two thousand years after his death, is still the finest role model for, not only husbands and fathers, but for all men for all time.


                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

September 7, 2016

Confused About Gender Identity? Time to Listen to St. John Paul II.

IT  MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

 “When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”
Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J Sheen
In 1988 Pope John Paul II (now St. John Paul II) wrote an apostolic letter titled, Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women).  It identified the complimentary roles of men and women in line with the true philosophy of feminism. In doing so it demonstrated the ultimate concept of “giving of oneself”.  With the furor over “gender identity” raging it is time to revisit this document.

When I was growing up, it was the norm for a man to give a lady a seat on the bus or subway, to open doors for women, let them go first in line and so forth.  Women were considered special by men and that type of behavior was more or less accepted and even taken for granted.  Grant you, it was not a perfect world (there have always been the abusers and the misogynistic). However, for the most part, men afforded women a deferential courtesy simply because they were women.
   
Fast forward fifty years to the present-day.  Now a senior citizen, I found myself stepping ahead of two younger women as we all approached the entrance to a shoe store. My motive, as it was fifty years before, was to open the door for them.  I reached for the handle, looked at them and smiled. The first woman presented me with a scowl and said, “I can open the door myself.”

I realize that most ladies would have accepted my gesture and said, “Thank you” or smiled at me or simply accepted my showing them respect. Rather, this woman exuded a certain loathing toward me. She did not know me which meant I represented that part of humanity she despised.  It was a bit unnerving. Anyway, I let the door go and the woman who rejected my momentary “doorman” status, opened the door, held it open for her friend and they both entered. So be it.

A few seconds later a man and woman with a child approached the very same entrance. They were either a married or unmarried couple in their middle to late twenties. He was a few steps ahead of them.  He opened the door and walked in. He never looked back and let the door go. His companion grabbed the door as it began to close and led her child in.  I watched as she and her child caught up to him. 

It appeared so perfectly normal. They proceeded to walk together completely in sync about how they had interacted with each other entering the store.  The behavior was obviously taken for granted. I viewed it as rude.  I am obviously not a millennial. (Please—I know there are lots of polite millenials).

Those few moments in time were a reflection to me of how the crusade for complete equality has taken a seriously convoluted turn.  Here (in my opinion) are the irrefutable facts in the order as I see them:  1)Man and Woman are both human beings;  2)Man and Woman are unique unto their own sex;  3)Man and Woman complement each other;  4)Man and Woman can form a bond with each other which allows them to be able to unite together  as one couple;  this natural, complimentary bond completes the Human equation;  5) the answer to the human equation is New Life.

Therefore  it follows that;  Man and Woman NEED each other; Man and Woman need to respect each other for their uniqueness which allows them to ‘complete ‘ each other ; and finally, Man and Woman will cease to exist without each other.  This concept is generally mocked in a secular driven world.


In an age of social rudeness, I wonder it if might not be good for everyone to read Mulieris Dignitatem, just for the reminder that once upon a time, quaint-seeming social customs and courtesies were reflections of objective truths our society is now struggling with. Women deserve the dignity and respect that comes with being what God has created them to be. And men need to stand up for them. Imagine the possibilities.  It might be a purifying spring breeze blowing through the thrown-open windows of a stifling room.

From St. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), no. 18
"Parenthood - even though it belongs to both  man and woman - is realised much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who 'pays' directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared programme of parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman." 


                                        ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

August 29, 2016

Krakow: The Pope and the Holocaust; I Am Proudly & Humbly Connected to Both*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Mom died from leukemia way back in 1961. She had just turned 40 and, at the time, there were no cures, no chemo and no bone-marrow transplants. She was dead within six months of diagnosis.

We lived in the Bronx in a five floor walk-up. Grandma lived up on the fifth floor and we were down on the third.  Grandma gave up her apartment and moved in with us downstairs. I guess it was to help take care of the “little ones”; I was 15, Carolyn was 13, Danny was 11, Bobby was six and Johnny was two). But, it was not a good thing. Grandma hated dad because, for some bizarre reason, she decided he had killed her daughter and let him know it every chance she had.

I have no explanation for this nor will I ever. None of us do. Hey, we were kids, what did we know. Grandma’s grief was so intense that Dad could not handle it. It was just the way it was. Dad solved the problem by avoiding Grandma as much as possible. He just began hanging out in the local saloons which actually gave Grandma a real reason to yell at him.

On March 8, 1963, Grandma had a massive stroke. I saw her standing seemingly twisted in a body spasm and managed to drag her to the bed. I held her in my arms as she summoned the strength to say an Act of Contrition.  Looking me dead in the eye, she slowly slurred each word. Then we said an “Our Father” together. I was crying like a baby and so were my sister and brother, Danny. Dad was in the other room with Bobby and Johnny, waiting for the priest to show up. He was not crying.

When we finished praying she closed her eyes and became comatose. Father Quirk arrived and administered Last Rites. She died a few hours later in the hospital. That moment is etched forever in my brain’s “like it just happened” memory section.

What does Krakow and World Youth day have to do with all of that? Well, the first question that must be asked is, who was Grandma’s husband, our Grandpa? We were kids and had never asked. We never thought about it. That’s what kids do—take things for granted.

But then Mom was gone and Grandma was gone and Dad was drinking heavily. He died two years later. We had never gotten to the point of asking, “Hey, where is Grandpa?” Just like that it was too late. As adults we never found out—until four years ago. And now, with the Pope going to Krakow, Grandpa is in the forefront of my mind.  Krakow was Grandpa’s hometown.

Forced deportation from the Krakow ghetto, 1942   wikipediacommons
Our Mom had a brother, my namesake, Uncle Larry. He had been in the 8th Army Air-Force during World War II and his plane had been shot down on a bombing mission. He survived the war as a POW in the infamous Stalag 17. One time I asked him about his dad. He told me, “He died.” He never said another word.  That was that. Then we grew up, our folks were gone, and we lost contact as we began our own individual lives.

About four years ago I received a message on Facebook (kudos to Facebook) by none other than my long lost cousin, Vicki, Uncle Larry’s oldest. She had been on a “quest” and located me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected. Now, to the point of this essay.

What follows may seem implausible but it is true and we have the documentation to confirm it. Vicki had been wondering about the missing Grandpa too. Her dad told her the same thing he had told me. Now he was gone. But she never stopped wondering and began a journey into the world of genealogy.  Lo and behold, she unraveled the mystery of the missing Grandpa.

Our grandma was an immigrant from Austria. A devout Catholic who never missed Mass, she married a man by the name of Isidore Schul. This was our grandfather. He was a Hebrew man from Krakow. Our maternal grandfather was Jewish. Shocker of shockers, the immigration papers and naturalization papers all confirm this. He made it to America in 1910.

We cannot understand how these two unlikely people connected, got married and had two children, one of them our own mother. But it was so and that mystery will never be unraveled. We dubbed our long, lost, mysterious grandfather, Grandpa Irv. He and grandma split up when Mom and Uncle Larry were young children. Grandpa Irv died in the Bronx in 1965. We will never know more than I revealed here.

But here is the thing. Cradle Catholics, we are also 25% Jewish. Grandpa Irv was the only one of his family to get to America. His parent’s names were Simon and Regina Schul. Simon and Regina are our great-grandparents. We do not know if they died in the Holocaust or before it began but apparently, from what Vicki discovered, Grandpa Irv’s siblings did. Probably in Ravensbruck but it might have been Auschwitz.

For me, personally, I am humbled by this connection. Jesus, the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, their  relatives, St. Ann, St. Joachim, and the apostles etc. were all Jewish. They were also the first Catholics. And today, as I write this, Pope Francis is in Krakow, Grandpa Irv’s hometown. I feel connected to it all and the Holocaust has a whole new meaning for me. It is all part of my heritage. My “own people” were killed there.  SHALOM

*This article also appeared in Aleteia. org on July 28,2016


                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

August 21, 2016

This College Kid Can Teach All of Us a Lesson*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Most Catholics know of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Society has been helping people in need for over 180 years. What most Catholics do not know is that St. Vincent de Paul is not the founder of the society. It is simply named after him because of his lifelong example of Christian charity. So, if it was not founded by St. Vincent de Paul where did it come from? How did it begin? What does St. Vincent de Paul have to do with it?

This is the very first paragraph from the Mission Statement of the St. Vincent de Paul Society

Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.”

As you finish that paragraph you will notice the name of Frederick Ozanam. Please, take a moment to meet him here. He happens to be the founder of the oldest Catholic charity in the United States of America, The St. Vincent de Paul Society.


Bl. Frederick Ozanam (as young man) courtesy slideshare.net
Frederick Ozanam was born in Milan, Italy in 1813. He was the fifth of fourteen children of Jean and Marie Ozanam and only one of three who lived into adulthood. The family moved to Lyons, France and this was where Frederick grew up. As a teenager the young man was strongly influenced by the elitists of the day and his Catholic faith began to waiver. Frederick fought his doubts and overcame them. Vowing to consecrate himself to the defense of his faith he moved to Paris. He was 18 years old.

Frederick entered the University of Paris and took up journalism. He made friends with some other young Catholic men and soon he and a few of his new friends were involved in vigorous debates among secular students who challenged their preaching for lack of action.

The secularists told them that maybe ‘long ago’ the Catholic Church was a benefactor of humanity but those days were over. They were then asked what they were doing for people now? Frederick and his pals had no answer. They were laughed at and told they were hypocrites and basically did nothing but talk.

Frederick’s friend, Augustus Le Tailandier, asked Frederick if they might be able to put together a small group of Catholics to bring to action the Gospel message of “doing” instead of just ”talking”. Thus was born the “Conference of Charity”. This small group of Catholic/Christian young men who would not only devote themselves to helping the needy but would also advance Christian friendship.

Frederick had been submitting copy to Joseph Emmanuel Bailly who published the Tribune Catholique. He asked Mr. Bailly what he thought of their idea. He liked it so much that he joined Frederick and together they and four other young men held their very first meeting on April 23, 1833. Frederick Ozanam was 20 years old.

At that first meeting Emmanuel Bailly sent Frederick to see Sister Rosalie Rendu, a “Daughter of Charity”. Sister Rosalie became Frederick’s mentor and set him and his fledgling organization on its course by focusing them on doing “home visits” to those in need. This method of interaction was to become the primary way members would interact with those seeking their help. It remains that way to this day.

 In the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of her order, she also taught Frederick and his followers the techniques of helping the poor and the sick by being compassionate and always treating people with their God given dignity. They invoked St. Vincent de Paul as their patron and named the group, in his honor, The St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Frederick Ozanam and his friends could never have dreamed of the way the Society would grow. Within 12 years from its inception it had spread to Italy, England, Belgium, Scotland and the United States. The society chose St. Louis, Missouri as its headquarters in America and to this day the National Council of The St. Vincent de Paul Society USA is located there.

Today in the United States there are more than 160,000 trained volunteers who provide almost 12 million hours of volunteer service helping those in need. There are close to 750,000 members doing volunteer work all around the world. And all of it was started by a 20 year old kid responding to the graces showered down upon him and inspiring those around him to join in his quest to stop “talking and start doing”.

Frederick Ozanam was beatified on August 22, 1997 by Pope John Paul II. His mentor, Sister Rosalie, was beatified on November 9, 2003. We ask them both for their continued prayers for all of us, especially those in need.

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on August 15, 2016

                                 ©Larry Peterson 2016  All Rights Reserved

August 8, 2016

The Deadliest Forest Fire in U.S. History was No Match for The Blessed Virgin Mary*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

On October 8, 1871, in or around a place called Peshtigo, Wisconsin, several men were setting small fires in the woods. This was a common practice in clearing land for expanding railroads or for expanding farm land. Except on this particular day something unexpected happened. A cold front moved into the area creating winds that were close to hurricane force. The winds fanned the flames and the resulting Peshtigo Firestorm still can claim the ignominious title as the "deadliest wildfire" in American History.

                                               Skeeze - CC
To this day, no wildfire in the U.S. has ever caused more deaths. It is estimated close to 2500 people perished in the raging 2,000 degree inferno. But there is an incredible side-bar to this story. Miraculously, there was a small group who were not harmed at all and they were right in the middle of the blaze. This small group of people were with Adele Brise.

Adele Brise was 24 years old when she arrived in Wisconsin with her parents from Belgium in 1855. A devout Catholic, Adele had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and prayed daily. On Sunday, October 2, 1859, Adele was walking home through the woods when she saw a woman clothed in white  standing between a hemlock and a maple tree. The woman was encased in a bright light and had a yellow sash around her waist.  A crown of stars was above her long, blond hair. Adele, filled with fear, began praying and the vision disappeared. She told her mom and dad about it and they told her that maybe it was a soul in need of prayers.

The following Sunday, Adele, was on her way to Mass with her sister and another woman when she saw the apparition a second time. But her sister and friend, who were walking a bit ahead of her, did not see anything. Returning from Mass, the Lady appeared to Adele for the third time. Adele, who had confided in her parish priest about the mysterious lady, did as he told her. She asked the lady the question, "In the Name of God, who are you and what do you wish of me?"

The Lady answered, "I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners...Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation."

Adele was afraid. She knew little about her faith. She asked how she was supposed to do this with so little knowledge. The Blessed Virgin told her, "Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the Sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing, I will help you."

Adele took the Blessed Virgin's words to heart. She began her new, lifelong ministry of teaching children the Catholic faith by traveling by foot from house to house to instruct children in their homes. Adele's dad, Lambert Brise, built a small wooden structure at the sight of the apparition and a few years later, after Isabella Doyen donated five acres around the site, Adele, started a small school.
In addition, a bigger wooden church was built and it was named Our Lady of Good Help.

In the meantime the magnificent woodlands of Wisconsin were being harvested for their fine lumber. Mounds of sawdust and dried branches were being littered about with no sense of cleanup or conservation ever considered. Then came the evening of October 8, 1871. The Peshtigo Fire quickly exploded and began to devour the entire area with its rushing flames and 2000 degree heat. The firestorm began to head for Our Lady of Good Help.

People nearby the chapel began heading there.There was never an accurate count but many people came, some even bringing their livestock. Sister Adele organized them together and they all prayed the rosary. Outside the chapel they  processed,  holding high a statue of Mary pleading for her protection. The fire kept coming and the people moved inside the chapel and continued praying. Soon the fire raged all around the compound and the flames even arched over it. But the fire never touched the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help or the people that were there.

Over one million acres were destroyed in the Peshtigo Firestorm. As far as the eye could see was total devastation. Yet, in the middle of it all, the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help and  the fenced property surrounding it, was untouched. The property had been spared and no-one had been hurt, including the animals. The five acres sat amid the charred landscape like an oasis in the desert. People who came and saw this incredible sight knew it was the Hand of God at work that night. The faithful all had no doubt that the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Good Help, stood outside the chapel deflecting the raging inferno away from her children inside.

The story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Good Help was always well known within the local culture and to the faithful but many considered it "urban legend". That was because there was never an "official ecclesiastical judgment" rendered. Then, in 2009, the Diocese of Green Bay launched an official investigation. On December 8, 2010, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a special Mass was offered on the site  by Bishop David Ricken. At the Mass the bishop declared that the Marian apparitions seen there by Adele Brise were "worthy of belief".

The site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help is only one of 15 worldwide recognized for Marian apparitions.  It is the only one in the United States. Since its ecclesiastical recognition and approval, The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is rapidly growing as a site for pilgrims from around the world. It is a beautiful thing.

*An edited version of this appeared in Aleteia on July 28,2016
*On August 15, 2016, the site was declared a National Shrine:  http://www.thecompassnews.org/2016/08/olgh-shrine-receives-national-shrine-recognition/


                               ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

July 22, 2016

"The Kids Need a Bed Tonight"*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson


Three days a week, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m they come and they wait. Three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday they come just to get a drop of reprieve from the outreach center; a bus pass to the VA or to get to a job interview, a bag of groceries, a voucher to get used clothes at the thrift store, maybe a small amount of money to help pay an overdue utility bill, and sometimes just to talk to someone, anyone who will listen.

The homeless, the disabled, the sick, the unemployed, the downtrodden, the marginalized, addicts and ex-cons just out of the "big-house" all stop by. All are different, yet all are living with one common denominator running their lives---survival.

It was 8:30 a.m. and the sun was already doing its thing, slowly roasting the folks as they waited patiently for the doors to open, some having been there since 7 a.m. Florida, ah yes, palm trees, blue skies and beaches--just another day in paradise.

Andre and Jessica had made the three mile walk to the St. Vincent de Paul outreach office and had arrived at 8 a.m. They signed in and were #11 on the list. At 10:15 a man opened the door and called their name. As they approached he smiled and said, "Hi folks, c'mon in. Sorry it took so long. How you guys doing today?"


He knew how they were doing and they knew that he knew but his friendly, unbureaucratic manner quickly put them at ease. "Okay, have a seat. I'm Joe. At least it's cool in here, right?"

They sat, sighed and let the cool A/C soak into their overheated bodies. They said nothing.

"Well now," Joe said looking straight at them, "I can see you have some heavy duty stuff going on. I hope we can help. So, what exactly is happening?"

They were a mixed race couple and they could feel inside themselves that whoever this man was it did not matter at all. You can just sense some things. They loosened up. Andre began to speak and tears quickly fell from Jessica's eyes. "Look, man, we got two kids, six and eight years old, and we're getting kicked out of our place at 11 a.m. if we don't come up with $58.00, and we ain't got a dime."

"Where are the kids now?" Joe asked.

“With a neighbor. Look, we don't care so much about us but the kids need a bed tonight, know what I mean?"

"I do Andre, I do. And for what it's worth, you guys need a bed too. Where you staying?"

"Barkley Motel over on---"

"Oh yeah, I know the place well. Here's the thing, Andre, we don't pay rent monies from this office. We just don't have the funds. But let me make a call."

Joe picked up the phone and pushed the numbers for the Barkley. He knew them by heart. He smiled kindly at them and, as he waited for an answer, twirled his finger in the air as if to say, "C'mon--pick up already".

After several moments went by he said, "Hello, hey Sam, this is Joe over at the St. Vincent de Paul outreach office. I have a couple here, Andre and Jessica-----What? What are you talking about? You have to be kidding me. They have until 11:00 a.m. Look Sam, these folks need that room now--not a new one tomorrow. You should have called me. Now, just “unrent” their room. I’ll be over myself about 12:15."

Andre's and Jessica's hopes had risen and fallen in a matter of moments. Andre, a big man, said, "Man, what we gonna do?"

Joe asked, "What happens after tomorrow? Getting through today is almost like a stay of execution."

"No, no, tomorrow I know I can get some work. Just gotta get through today. Plus, we got a place lined up for next week. Her mom worked it out. She's up in Jersey and she knew someone and, anyway, come Saturday we'll be okay. She’s even sending bus tickets for the greyhound over on 9th St. We leave Saturday afternoon. Next week is 4th of July and we plan on being in Jersey and celebrating. We just gotta get through till Saturday."

"No kidding, Andre. That's awesome. But today is only Wednesday. Well, we can't have the kids without beds tonight….and tomorrow too. Now, here is a food voucher. Go across the street to the pantry and get some groceries. Then bring them home with you."

"They ain't been too nice to us over at the motel. And if I ain’t got the $58.00 they won’t let us in."

"Don't you worry about that. Trust me, okay. You go back there, everything will be all right."

It was almost 1 p.m. when they arrived back at the motel. They walked to the front desk  and Sam, the manager, smiled at them. "Okay, I have good news for you. You're paid up through Saturday."

Jessica almost collapsed from relief. Andre held her up and a happy tear rolled down his cheek.

Back at the St. Vincent De Paul office Joe finished up the paperwork from the 23 clients he had served that day. As he filed Andre and Jessica’s sheet into the folder, he held it up for a moment, looked at it and smiled. And a well-deserved smile it was.

* An edited version of this appeared in Aleteia on July 2, 2016


                             ©  Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

July 9, 2016

A "Gangbanger"s Journey from Hoodlum to Saint*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The following is true. And even though it may have happened 700 years ago, in many ways people then were like people now. When it comes to our wants,  needs and emotions nothing has changed. And when it comes to family love; especially when it comes to family love coupled with prayer, that often makes for an unbreakable bond for all eternity.

Arnold Armengol was a member of the Spanish hierarchy. His son, Peter, in spite of being given the finest education and upbringing, rejected all of that and left home. He quickly fell into the secular trap of self-centeredness, self-gratification, and outright depravity. He even joined a band of criminals that preyed on people traveling up into the mountains. Peter was so good at this work he eventually became the gang leader.

Two years after Peter left home, his dad  was asked by King Jaime of Aragon to lead him on a journey to Montpellier so he might meet with the King of France. King Jaime had heard of the brigands that preyed on mountain travelers and knew that Arnold would be the one who would keep them safe.

As Arnold Armengol led the King’s entourage through the mountain passes they were attacked by a band of highwayman. As the robbers charged toward them. Armengol led his men in a counter attack. With his sword drawn he headed directly for the leader of the pack. They were about to engage each other when the brigand fell to his knees. He had recognized his father and with tears streaming down his face, prostrated himself at his feet . Surrendering his sword, he begged his father for forgiveness. The constant praying of Peter’s father for his boy were about to be answered in an amazing way.

Peter Armengol, repentant and seeking mercy, was filled with shame.  He appealed to King James I for a second chance. Standing before the King with his dad at his side the King granted young Peter a pardon. Shortly thereafter, heeding the graces offered to him by God, he entered a Mercedarian Monastery in Barcelona. Soon after, Peter Armengol became known as Friar Peter.

St. Peter Armengol by Vincent Carducho  (17 century)
The mission of the Mercedarians, (The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy) founded by St. Peter Nolasco, was to ransom Catholics taken hostage. Peter excelled at this task and, over a period of eight years, managed to negotiate the freedom of many hostages from the Saracens. . (The Mercedarians take a fourth vow. Besides poverty, chastity and obedience they also vow to always be ready to exchange their own lives to free a hostage).   

Friar Peter then headed to Africa with Friar William Florentino. His goal was to  ransom Christians from the Moors. On arrival in a place called Bugia, he heard about 18 Christian children being held hostage. They were under the threat of death if they did not renounce Christianity. Friar Peter offered himself in exchange for the hostages. The captors agreed but warned Peter that if the ransom was not paid on time he would suffer brutal torture and death.

The arrival of the agreed ransom and Friar Peter’s release were scheduled for a certain day. The ransom never arrived. Peter was immediately put to torture and endured this for days on end. The Moors, tired of Friar Peter being alive, accused him of blaspheming Mohammad. He was sentenced to be hanged.

Friar Peter was hanged from a tree. His body was left there for the birds of prey to feed on. Six days later Friar William arrived with the ransom. The Moors refused it and told Friar William that Peter was already dead for six days and his rotted corpse was still hanging from the tree. Distraught, William went to recover his brother Mercedarian’s body.

William left and headed to the execution site. As he approached he noticed that Peter’s body seemed to be intact. In fact, there was a fragrance of flowers in the air. William slowly approached the body of Peter. The man who was supposedly dead for six days began to speak. He explained how the Blessed Virgin had come to him and was holding  him up with her precious hands so his body would not hang on the rope.

Peter Armengol, when recalling the miracle of his hanging, told his Mercedarian brothers that the happiest days of his life were those six days that he hung from the gallows supported by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Peter’s neck, broken from the hanging, remained in a twisted position for the rest of his life and he always had a sickly complexion. Seven documented miracles were attributed to him while he was still alive.

Peter Armengol was canonized a saint on April 8, 1687 by Pope Innocent XI. On this Father's Day we might also remember how his dad, Arnold Armengol, prayed unceasingly for the safe return of his son. His prayers were surely answered,  a lesson for us all.

*An edited version of this article also appeared in Aleteia on June 16, 2016

                             ©Larry Peterson 2016  All Rights Reserved

July 6, 2016

The "Protector" Saint of the Mexican Border*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Sometime during the early summer of 1973, Jesus Gaytan and two friends began making their way north to the United States. They were planning to ‘”sneak” across the border and find work as farmhands. They did not care where, they just wanted to work.

At the border their plans quickly unraveled. They were spotted by the Border Patrol and, frightened, ran back toward Mexico. Jesus became separated from his friends and began wandering around the desert. He had no idea where he was. After several days of walking and wandering and without any food or water left, Jesus was sure he would die.

As he stared across the bleak landscape peering through the undulating heat waves rising from the ground, he saw a pickup truck coming his way. Not knowing who was approaching, he became instantly afraid and yet also relieved. The truck pulled up and a young man with light skin and blue eyes stepped out. He smiled and gave Jesus food and water. Then he directed him to a nearby farm where they needed workers. He also gave Jesus a few dollars to keep in his pocket. Jesus thanked him profusely and asked him where he could return the money to him.

Speaking perfect Spanish the man said to him, “When you finally get a job and money, look for me in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalisco. Ask for Toribio Romo.”

And so the story goes that years later Jesus Gaytan did make that trip to Santa Ana de Gaudalupe. When he arrived he asked how he could find Toribio Romo. He was directed to the small church nearby. Hanging on the outside of the chapel was a large picture. Jesus stared wide-eyed looking up at the picture. It was the man from the desert, Toribio Romo.

Jesus had arrived at Toribio’s shrine where his remains were kept. He was shocked to learn that the man who had helped him in the desert 20 years before had been beatified in 1992 by Pope John Paul II. He was doubly shocked that his rescuer had been murdered in 1928 during the Cristero War.  Jesus Gaytan realized he had been saved by a man sent from heaven.

Luciano Lopez tells of being on his way to Colorado to find work when he got lost in the encapsulating heat of the Arizona desert. Luciano tells of seeing a “shadowy” figure standing next to what appeared to be an ocean. Luciano told how the person waved him to him and how he began walking. He was led right to a rest-stop with food and water and he was saved. When he told his wife back in Mexico she said, “It was St. Toribio, the migrant-smuggling saint, leading you to safety. I have been praying to him for your well-being.”

Toribio Romo was born on April 16, 1900 in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalisco, Mexico. He was, with permission from the bishop, ordained a priest at the young age of 22. His age did not matter to the authorities. The anti-religious Constitution of Mexico had been enacted in 1917. Toribio may have been only 22 but he was immediately placed under watch by the government. Then along came the fateful year of 1927. That was the year that the Catholic hating president of Mexico, Plutarco Ellas Cartes, ordered his soldiers to strictly enforce the anti-religious Constitution of 1917.

Besides saying Mass “under the radar” and making sick calls and hearing confessions, Father Toribio had also been teaching catechism to both children and adults. Now he was told to confine himself to his residence and to not say the Rosary in public or offer Mass. The young priest took up refuge in an old factory near a town called Agua Caliente. Here he defied the secular authority and celebrated Mass and tended to his ministry the best he could.

On February 22, 1928,  Father Toribio, began organizing his parish registry. He finished doing that on February 24. Father Toribio knew the danger he was in and he was afraid. He prayed daily for God’s grace and strength but would not let his fears stop him from doing his work. It was 4: 00 am on February 25 when the young priest climbed into his bed to get some sleep.

An hour later government troops stormed the place and broke into the priest’s bedroom. One soldier shouted, “I have found the priest. Kill him!”

Father Toribio said, “Here I am but you do not have to kill me.”

The soldiers did not care. One soldier fired and the wounded priest stood up and began to walk toward the soldiers. After a few steps they opened fire and Father Toribio Romo fell dead. The story of the young priest’s martyrdom spread quickly and his popularity soared. Many Mexicans who have headed north tell inspiring stories about how their lives were saved through the intervention of Father Toribio.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Father Toribio and 24 other martyrs murdered for their faith during the Cristero War. Today, Santo Toribio Romo, is honored as the Patron Saint of Mexican migrants and “border crossers”. He is a saint who all Mexican and American Catholics should pray to for help with the border crisis confronting us today.

Saint Toribio Romo, pray for us.

*This article appeared in Aleteia in June of 2016


                                   ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

June 30, 2016

Meet the "Madman" of the Sacred Heart*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on June 3, 2016

Every year, exactly 19 days after Pentecost, the Catholic Church  celebrates the Devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus . It is a worldwide devotion and is always on a Friday. This year it will be celebrated on June 3. Stressing the profound relevance of this feast, Pope Benedict XVI said on June 5, 2007;
 "In the Heart of the Redeemer we adore God's love for humanity, His will for universal salvation, His infinite mercy. Practising devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ therefore means adoring that Heart which, after having loved us to the end, was pierced by a spear and from high on the Cross poured out blood and water, an inexhaustible source of new life."

I have mentioned that this is a worldwide Catholic feast day our Pope Emeritus, has spoken to its importance. This caused me to wonder why so many Catholics around the world (including  those in the United States) have never heard about the man from Mexico whose name was Jose Maria Robles Hurtado .

St. Jose Robles Hurtado; "Madman of the Sacred Heart"

Jose Robles Hurtado was 25 years old when he was ordained to the priesthood. The year was 1913. He loved his priestly calling and, being a gifted writer, immediately began writing essays and lessons to teach and propagate the faith. He had such love of  Christ in the Eucharist that within two years of his ordination he founded an order of religious called the  Congregation of the Victims of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. But his love for his Lord was also being noticed by the authorities. Father Hurtado was already going against the new laws being enacted in Mexico.

The young priest was so devoted to the Sacred Heart that his fervor for this devotion became known far and wide. He even became known as the "Madman" of the Sacred Heart. But that was in Mexico. It was also during the intense anti-religious era of Catholic/Christian persecution that was beginning to rear its demonic head in the country. Evil finally became the rule of law when in 1917 the anti-religious Constitution of Mexico was enacted.

The new constitution prohibited public professions of faith, public processions and most devotional practices "outside" of church. (Have we heard this narrative advanced in our country?) Father Hurtado promptly proposed a project where a huge cross would be placed somewhere in the center of Mexico to honor Christ as the true King of Mexico. He was now in direct violation of the law.

The plans for the project began  to come together as Father Hurtado led the  movement to erect the giant cross. Signs were distributed throughout Mexico declaring Christ as the King of Mexico. These signs also proclaimed the nation's devotion to the Sacred Heart. Word spread quickly throughout the country and a public ceremony was scheduled for the laying of the project's cornerstone.  Government leaders were furious.

In 1923 over 40, 000 Roman catholics headed to a spot in central Mexico called "La Loma" (the hill). The groundbreaking took place and the government decided it was time to intensify the "law". Persecution of Catholics intensified and Father Robles Hurtado was singled out for intense scrutiny to make sure he stopped his "anti-government" practices.

Father Hurtado, despite demands by the government that he leave the country, continued his ministry, offering Mass, hearing confessions for hours at a time, visiting the poor and the sick, performing baptisms, anointing the dying  and teaching the children.the faith. Then came 1924 and a new president. His name was Plutarco Elias Calles and he held a fierce hatred of Roman Catholics.

Presidente Calles was determined to stop all religious practices within Mexico. He ordered the Constitution of 1917 to be strictly enforced and the result was one of the bloodiest episodes in Mexican history. From 1927 through 1929 the Cristero War ravaged Mexico and Father Jose Robles Hurtado was destined to be one of its victims.

As has been proven throughout history, when certain people gain power that power can become an evil aphrodisiac. Hiding behind "laws" enacted to help them attain their goals of domination, they can kill with a reckless, oftentime vicious, abandon. The evil at work in Mexico was not about to ignore the young priest.

On June 25, 1927, while leading a family in prayer at their home, soldiers broke into the house and arrested Father Hurtado for "violating the law". He was immediately found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. In this world there would be no appeals.

The next morning, before dawn, Father Jose Maria Robles Hurtado, age 39, was led out to a nearby oak tree. The priest, facing his immediate death, offered an understanding and compassion for his executioners. He  forgave them and insisted that he be allowed to place the noose around his own neck. This way none of the men there would have to feel guilty about what was happening. He was handed the noose, kissed it, and slid it over his head. Then he went to meet his beloved Sacred Heart.
Several of the executioners openly wept.

Father Jose Robles Hurtado, the "Madman" of the Sacred Heart. was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II on May 21, 2000.

                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved